Saturday, May 31, 2008

Comics Out May 29, 2008 (Final Crisis and Astonishing X-Men Audio-Reviews)
Giant Sized X-Men # 1 can only be reviewed with the power of the spoken word.
Final Crisis #1 ALSO demands an audio review.
Iron Fist 15. A pretty good story overshadowed by this week's other releases. The image on the cover is especially excellent.
Batman 677. Morrison's Batman has been as mixed a bad as his X-Met at least -- probably more. Surprisingly, I liked this issue better if only because I like all the possibilities for the identity of the Black Glove being tossed around: Thomas Wayne, Alfred (Batman's real rather?), Batman himself. The fact that Batman's obscure brother is not mentioned make him the right pick I think -- Callahan had that theory and it seems like a good one. I am still not 100% on board with this because the art is boring and I think the Bad Guy team looks kind of silly and random -- not in a good way. But I do want to see how it continues. And did you read the Morrison interview where he explained about the last page of the last issue, the one I called superfluous? Turns out the colorist got it wrong, and there was supposed to be no blood -- that way you know the last few pages were pure fantasy. Morrison has a history of not communicating with his artists, say on New X-Men or the end of the Invisibles and it is kind of sad. That's why the Quitely collaborations are the best, I think, because they are friends and live in the same city, and really plan this stuff together.
All Star Superman 11. Another perfect issue. The only problem with this series, and it is not really a problem I suppose, is that the tone was established a while back and so some of the surprise is kind of gone 11 issues in. I know what kind of thing to expect now, and 11 is not going to knock me out the way 5 did. From the moment this project was announced I have been looking forward to the inevitable Absolute edition -- 12 issues is the perfect number for a book like that. It will be, for me the definitive Superman. And maybe on a personal level more important: the definitive Luthor. I ADORE the final page of this, with Luthor transcendent in the green and purple. Notice the difference between the line work when he is in the chair in the opening two pages and this final image -- as he becomes more powerful he almost solidifies. I love Luthor. I am this close to shaving my head in solidarity.


Geoff Klock said...

I fear I may be speaking too fast for the audio tech to pick up. If so here are the written reviews of Astonishing and Final Crisis:

Giant Sized Astonishing X-Men 1. In my posts about Astonishing X-Men I think it was Neil who pointed out that a lot would come down to how Whedon sticks the landing. I have mixed feeling about this final issue. On the one hand, it did a great job wrapping up the fourth story arc, and the climax was as Astonishing as Whedon was going for: it worked perfectly, and it was an amazing inevitable scene I should have seen coming. The final page was as sad as it could be. The stuff with the earth-bound heroes was funny -- often teams save the world in their book and we are given no sense of how other heroes are reacting to the even or why they can't get involved: Whedon answers the question in a satisfying, funny way. But. This is not just the conclusion to the fourth story arc. This is the conclusion to the book. Given the Giant Sized #1 format I expected more on that point -- and bringing back the rogue sentinel or Emma and Kitty recalling their issue 2 conversation was not enough. Issue 18 ended with Casandra Nova attempting to transfer her consciousness to Armor through Emma -- and the big moment Emma, cornered, gives the ambiguous "go to hell", Nova's eyes go wide, Danger and Ord break in and they are all teleported into space for the final story arc. If that was the defeat of Nova is was too ambiguous to be a proper climax, and as a result of that, and the art, I was dead sure she was hiding in Armor (as she hid in Emma) ready to spin the space story in a whole other direction, as the Ord, Danger, and Nova plots all converge in a big moment -- the conclusion will be giant sized, i thought, because it wraps up the book and not just this arc. Turns out, I was wrong. That WAS the defeat of major terror Cassandra Nova. Trapped in that alien blob she was so dangerous she had to be locked in a super-vault in the mansion; Whedon left dangling that fact that, if Nova was not killed (and it was not at all clear that she was) this terrifying psychic demon was just left on the floor of a house full of children. Then end. No. The fact that it was at all unclear makes it a total failure in my eyes. The fact that Danger had one line in the final issue -- the banal "we cannot catch up in this vessel" -- it looks to my eye that, again, Whedon has ended that story too early and not clearly. I thought we were going somewhere with Danger, that that was why she was brought into space. And watch Colossus threaten the leader of the Breakworld -- it looks like a big moment, but goes nowhere, all bluster for nothing. Not a great thing. And the fact that I have read hundreds of Claremont comics between this issue and the last one makes me vaguely offended that they put at "Giant Sized #1" label on this thing at all. Who do they think they are? This is nothing more than the end of and arc. (I blame Powell for making me feel this way. ) And do NOT tell me the Nova thing is great because other writers can use it now. I don''t want to hear it. There has to be a sense of self-containment in prestige books.

Final Crisis 1. And thought the art was great here, I was not wild about this either. 8 pages of a riff on 2001 -- the silent cave men meet technology from the future before the famous transition shot (instead of the bone-become-ship we have fire-become-cigarette). Ok. Then space cop stuff that struck me as a little silly: I mean I know the Green Lanterns are space cops but I don't want to see that so literally expressed, with obvious analogues to modern day cops. Similarly, "Justice League Condition Amber?" That is a dumb thing invented by president Bush and thus not appropriate for the team Batman is on. Supervillains marching against "vigilante brutality" followed almost immediately by a joke about sex with a literally giant woman -- what is this? The Venture Bros. I mean I love the Venture Bros. and am counting the hours till the season three premiere tomorrow, but the Venture Bros tone does not seem right for a big event like this. I loved Libra's "A full on no bullshit twilight of the gods" but much of what he says are just obvious satanic moral reversals better suited for a pro-christian depiction of the devil for new converts and children. As we all know from Milton, the devil should speak more persuasively. I see what Morrison is up to with the Darkside club but his vaguely Joycean idea about the New Gods mythology playing itself out in banal human forms is more suited to a low budget film -- in comics I want more mad visuals and Darkside in a suit is not visually engaging enough; if I want pictures or red-eyed children I can grab a third rate camera and take pictures of my nephews and nieces. Or see Children of the Corn or whatever. Similarly, the cosmic soap opera with crying, in love and sneaky monitors -- the idea that they have been corrupted by contact with earth is a good idea, but it has some bad effects, namely that in bringing them down to earth you are removing the weird -- and thus Morrison continues to move out of his wheelhouse. The murder of the Manhunter I do not really find as controversial as many; I was more bothered by the anticlimax of the final page and the fact that, at the Philly Con Jones said, "Don't worry, the pace really picks up with issue 3." That is not a typo folks -- he said THREE, not two.

Lou said...

I thought the audio bits were fine, man. Nice change of pace from other blogs, the audio, yet not so long it's daunting. short & sweet.

Gotta say, much as I want to like Final Crisis, it didn't really engender much of a reaction from me either way.

I like that Morrison is almost actively ignoring both Countdown and Death of the New Gods, and the art's of course gorgeous, but the story just seemed flat.

And the rationale that things are just being set up doesn't fly for me either, as Morrison has been able to make the "first issue's a set-up issue" gambit work much better in other series. Hell, he usually doesn't even need a set-up issue. Marvel Boy, Doom Patrol, Flex Mentallo, New X Men, The Invisibles, even DC One Million or Kid Eternity, they all start out firing on all cylinders right out the gate.

I really really want to love it, but I think you're right to be concerned.

Anonymous said...

With the advent of potentially world-changing technologies like nano- and biotech and maybe even Artifical General Intelligence Morrison's take on 2001 doesn't seem so superfluous to me.


Voice Of The Eagle said...

One thing I loved about [i]Giant-Size[/i] is that Spider-Man is the one who figures out the mass hallucination. It HAS to be Pete,because he among all superheroes is the one who knows his limitations.

Sometimes I remember why I love Whedon.

Ping33 said...

Geoff: I think you're dead wrong about Final Crisis, I'm going to address why point-by-point (though not in order)

1) Pacing - A lot of people have commented on the slow rollout of FC1 mostly in the negative. I for one think that it's WONDERFUL to see an EVENT(tm) book not fall into the usual tropes of pointless cliffhangers and breathless moments. I will gladly forego those in order to see some real depth, which is what we get here.

2)"8 pages of a riff on 2001 -- the silent cave men meet technology from the future before the famous transition shot (instead of the bone-become-ship we have fire-become-cigarette)" - All of this is true, at its surface, but like I said in point 1, what we get here is depth. Kirby's 4th World (and OMEC/Great Disaster Komandi) has always existed uneasily with the rest of the DCU. Somewhat out of time, place and context of the rest of the fictional universe. Morrison gives it context here. Fire is a gift from the New Gods and the knowledge granted to man from same will enable us to defeat their influence. Highfather controls the Alpha Wave, Darkseid: the Omega beam. Obviously Kirby (a Jew unlikely to believe such things) was referencing Revelations 22:13. Morrison incorporates these aspects while turning the whole continuum into a moebius strip... makes sense in a medium featuring endless riffs on the same central concepts (see his Batman work or Alan Moore's Supreme.) Additionally: it's clear that the New Gods in human form ISN'T their Omega as Darkseid says: "Bodies-- *kurrf* they wear out hard in here." Their current state is a transition as they ascend into the forthcoming 5th World.

3) The Dr. Light Giant Woman thing - some exposition to show how useless these villains are on their own. Perhaps it's a bit ham-handed. But I thought it was effective in showing what a weak threat they are on their own, and therefore how much more effective they are under the command of Libra.

4) The Power of visuals - The neutered threat of the new New Gods is exemplified in their visual representation. They are in the cocoon, when it hatches the shit will hit the fan.

5) The weird - is seeing all of these characters who have been long neutered by familiarity cast in the unfamiliar. The quantum shift of what has always been known IS the weird. Perhaps it's a weird which can only be appreciated by those who know the history... which I do... and it's hella weird.

6) JLA Condition Amber - Like the Bush Administration, this is an ineffective reaction to a real problem. The Heroes are fucked because they are playing by the wrong set of rules. They won't be the ones to save us, they aren't the Alpha or the Omega... Anthro and Komandi are, the respective first and last boys of humanity. They and Turpin are the only ones who can help us. It's on humanity to save itself.

Anthony said...

Hey Geoff, I'm a regular reader of this blog, and the audio comments are a welcome addition. I don't think you were speaking too fast for comprehension, although better audio quality wouldn't hurt.

James said...

"And do NOT tell me the Nova thing is great because other writers can use it now. I don't want to hear it. There has to be a sense of self-containment in prestige books."

I've thought about this some, and I think there's a defense in that Warren Ellis is going to be writing Astonishing X-Men #25 onwards, rather than Astounding X-Men #1 (say). Maybe it's okay for Whedon to leave some stuff hanging. Of course, that may well turn out to not be the case, but I'd like to believe that the ambiguity of Nova's "defeat" in #18 and the heroes' trance in Giant-Size are a result of more than unclear story-telling.

Oh yeah, and [SPOILERS] Kitty's final fate was PERFECT; Whedon is under no illusion that a superhero death can ever really stick, and he manages to acknowledge this without sacrificing any of the tragedy.

Jason said...

"And the fact that I have read hundreds of Claremont comics between this issue and the last one makes me vaguely offended that they put at "Giant Sized #1" label on this thing at all. Who do they think they are? This is nothing more than the end of and arc. (I blame Powell for making me feel this way. )"

:) Aw hells yeah.

"Darkside in a suit is not visually engaging enough"

Also, Chris Claremont had Darkseid in a trench coat in his "Sovereign Seven" #1, back in 1995. I'm just sayin'.

j.liang said...

I agree that wrapping up all the loose-ends in Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men would have been more satisfying -- specifically, Emma's vague promise to Danger ("I'll give you Xavier").

However, I didn't think that Nova's earlier defeat was all that ambiguous. Granted, the end of Astonishing #18 is a cliffhanger, but Whedon seems to wrap up the threat of Cassandra Nova pretty quickly in the following issue. I don't have an air-tight case to present, but here's my take on it:

First off, Nova was never really "hiding" in Emma. The Nova we see is a construction of Emma's subconscious, prompted by Nova's latent psychic instructions to rescue her from Stuff's body in exchange for (supposedly) saving Emma in Genosha via her secondary mutation. The rest of the Hellfire Club, including the White Queen, are a manfestation of Emma's guilt over her past as a villain and the death of her students. So Nova can't "hide" in Armor in the same way -- Hisako has no psychic powers, no tortured conscience.

Secondly, the successful transference of Nova's consciousness would have resulted in the destruction of Hisako's. (Nova likens it to an oyster, a delicacy to be consumed.) Once we're shown in issue #19 that Hisako's consciousness and personality are still intact, and that all traces of Nova's influence are gone from Emma's psyche, I think we're supposed to conclude that Nova's mind is still trapped in Stuff's body, reduced to the status of a pocket calculator. The only danger Nova poses as an alien blob free of the super-vault is that some other telepath, like Emma, will come along and release Nova by transferring her consciousness to a new body.

If Nova were subsequently revealed in Giant-Size Astonishing to have been pretending to be Hisako, then we'd have to believe that Nova's deception has been flawless throughout their time on Breakworld; that, without psychic powers, Nova is able to evade detection by Brand's alien telepath and by Emma; and that, upon regaining consciousness in issue #19, Emma does not remember having successfully performed the transfer. Wouldn't this be nearly as bad as Magneto pretending to be Xorn?

Thematically, I think it's a mistake to label Nova as the Big Bad in the "Torn" arc. Emma's repressed guilt and self-doubt are the real threats here, and, in some ways, have been all along. In Astonishing #2, we learn that Kitty was asked to join the team at Emma's request, to keep Emma herself in check. In Giant-Size, we see the ultimate consequences of this decision.

Geoff Klock said...

Lou -- Good point about the rocket starts on other morrison books

FrF -- it is not superfluous exactly -- it just seems to me to be a very EASY allusion for him.

VoE -- good point.

Ping. Oh, ping. I can never really get it together and say you are wrong because after the All Star Batman and Cass recs I have come to trust you. You always make good points, and I see what you are saying here, but I can't get myself to BELIEVE it. We had a similar disagreement on 52. That said: 1. is real depth what we are getting here? 2. That is a fair point and I did not know that. Still, see my comment to FrF above. 3. fair point. 4. fair point, and I thought of that myself -- sometime you need a good background before the insanity breaks loose. But I think that works better in longer format release. Though, to be fair, I did like Morrison's authority #1, so maybe I am in contradiction here. 5. and you do know WAY more DC history than me. 6. fair, but still I do not want to see them be lame and compared to Bush. But that is not a real critique, maybe.

Jason -- maybe you should start a feature called Claremont did Everything First.

J -- I see your point, but 18 should have been clearer at the time, and not in retrospect. But then maybe I was the only person who was SURE Nova was in Armor.

James said...

Geoff: (I didn't see it until you mentioned it, but after you did it seemed like that's exactly what was going on.) I'm sure it'll turn out to be wishful thinking, but if Ellis proves you right and does a plot about Nova being in Armor, then it was clear after all, right? I think.

James said...

Oh wait, that was to J.Liang. Never mind!

Kyle said...

I take the end of Danger's story to be the confrontation with Emma on Breakworld and subsequently joining the X-men's mission.

chaise lounges said...

Oh wait, that was to J.Liang. Never mind!